Note: This review concerns only Beta Weekend 3 (BWE3) as I did not take part in any of the others.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I had initially written off every trying Guild Wars 2 because everything I had heard about it indicated that it was focused on PvP which means my wife would never play it. After some information sharing from our friends on twitter though, we found out that it actually has a good deal of PvE content as well.
Last Thursday we decided that we would take a look at the game and by Friday both my wife and I had invites to the BWE3 event. We played it for most of the weekend from the time that we finished eating after work on Friday until we went to sleep last night. We both missed the world event at the close, so you won’t get any GW2 Hunger Games information here, but I will be talking about everything that I did have a chance to actually experience.
I was working on renovating my kitchen all weekend, so I only got to play late at night and early in the mornings, but I got to experience a fair amount of content including solo PvE, solo-queued PvP (both varieties), and group PvE. My wife had more playtime during the day than I did, so you can read her thoughts about the game at Fynralyl’s Pen.
Since we’re still in the beta phase for another month, I’m not going to go too much into detail about things prior to character creation. Not that there is much to talk about there anyway, but you never know what they might change about fairly minor things such as loading screens, server select and so forth.
You will see the cinematic art style that they have in the game during this time, which doesn’t appeal to me personally but I know it is totally a matter of personal tastes and you should not take my saying that to mean anything other than my personal taste lies elsewhere in terms of cinematic and art.
Do note that the art style you see there is not indicative to what you will see in the actual game play. You will see scenes with art that is similar to that, but the actual game world is much different. You can see an example of that style of art in the Elementalist wallpaper below. I don’t think it looks bad, it just isn’t a style that appeals to me personally, and it is not at all what you see in the actual gameplay. It’s like a pseudo-watercolor that just looks weird to me rather than appealing.
Character Creation: General
After you select which server you’re going to play on, it’s time to get into character creation. The creation process is pretty typical for MMO’s that are out right now. The major difference you’ll see with GW2 is that there is no faction choice to be made because there are no factions. You pick your race, then your profession (class), and then you answer a few multiple choice questions about your character’s background. [Note: I have seen some veterans mention that you choose a faction at a later stage, but it’s not a faction in the typical sense, like Horde/Alliance or Sith/Jedi, but more like earning reputation with a certain group was in WoW. It’s more involved than that, but it’s not a player splitting faction from what I’ve heard.]
I will cover races and classes in just a moment since those are a bit more important. The questions that you answer about your background supposedly have some impact on your character’s class quest, but from the information I have been able to gather of the last few days there has not been a confirmation of that. Some people said that they had quest text refer to their choices, but it’s possible that those were just coincidences. Hopefully I will be able to find out more information about that soon, either through further research or by rolling alts like crazy to see if I can find out for myself.
I really liked the amount of customization that they allow in the creation process. I love being able to make my character short/tall and fat/skinny without those two traits being directly linked. If I want a short little fat guy, then dang it I want a short little fat guy! GW2 doesn’t have as much control over looks as I would like to have in that area, but they do a great job regardless. I didn’t feel like any of my characters were forced to take on features that I didn’t like just to enable features that I did.
Character Creation: Race
The only complaint I have about the race selection is how little information there is about the race on the selection screen. You get a quick little blurb that’s one or two sentences long, and that’s it. I don’t expect a ton of information on them, but with only five races to choose from and so much empty screen space to play around with I think they could have done a better job of presenting the races to us and given a better idea of who they are. Other games don’t have as much of a problem with that because a lot of their races are typical for fantasy genres. For example, you don’t need much explanation to know what a dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, or troll is. GW2 has four races that are completely different from the norm, and since I never played GW1 I had no idea who any of these non-human races were beyond what I could imagine based on looks (Sylvari being obviously influenced by elves, for example).
Guild Wars 2 has five races for you to choose from: Charr, Human, Norn, Asura and Sylvari.
Charr: the token monster race, they are a freaky mixture WoW’s Tauren and Worgen races. They run on all fours when they do not have weapons drawn, and they did a fairly good job of that animation in my opinion. Theirs is one of the starting areas that I experienced the least, so I don’t know much about them or their story beyond what I’ve read on their official page.
Human: the race that needs no explanation. Humans are humans are humans. Humans are Charr are the two races I played the least, getting both to only level 2.
Norn: These are essentially a larger, more barbaric version of humans. They are have a belief system that revolves around revering animal spirits and according to lore they are shape-changers which I assume is a change into the animal spirits. From what I saw through the game play, their shape-shifting quality is not something you can use in game but I suspect that you will probably see it at some point in your character’s story. The Norn starting area and the story that goes along with it made them easily my favorite race in the game. I had a fantastic time experiencing their starting area and look forward to rolling a real one.
I wish I would have thought to grab a screenshot for you, but to tell you just how large these people are, when I rolled my Norn and then looked at him on the character select screen, the top half of his head wouldn’t even fit on my monitor so all I saw was his beard.
Asura: the token small race, the Asura can look quite cute and cuddly or they can look freaking psychotic. I’m usually not a fan of playing small races because their cuteness makes it hard for me to take them seriously, but that was not the case with the Asura for me. I enjoyed their starting area and their story, though part of my enjoyment is based on my class selection as well since my Asura happened to be my favorite class so far as well. They are similar to the Gnomes in WoW both in size and because they are technologically advanced, particularly in the creation of golems.
Sylvari: the token tree-huggers, the Sylvari are humanoid plants that resemble elves. They have a beautiful starting area and their story was pretty fun once we got it moving as well. My Sylvari Necromancer was my highest level character during the BWE3 event at level 12, and I enjoyed him. Some of the quests in their starting area were really annoying because they took forever to complete, but those are minor issues that can easily be fixed in-game if the devs take our feedback to heart.
Your race determines your starting area, but there is nothing keeping you from leaving your area and joining that of another race right after rolling your character. There are no racial abilities, and I didn’t notice any racial attribute bonuses either.
The one non-vanity impact that your race does have is that it defines your character’s quest story. I have not experienced enough of the game to comment on character quest stories other than to say that I’ve enjoyed the small amounts of them that I have seen so far. From what I’ve heard over the last day and a half, those stories really start to take off and get a life of their own somewhere around the level 20 mark.
Character Creation: Class
In Guild Wars 2 classes are called Professions. That has taken a lot of getting used to for me since I have always associated professions with crafting in video games. You will likely see me make several incorrect references to GW2’s Professions as being Classes and crafting as professions until I get myself retrained on the terminology.
GW2 offers eight Professions (classes) to choose from: Elementalist, Warrior, Guardian, Engineer, Ranger, Necromancer, Thief and Mesmer.
Elementalist: is a spellcaster class that has a good balance of single target damage, AoE damage, and a fair amount of healing thrown into the mix as well. Of the classes that I was able to try out, the Elementalist proved to be my favorite and I loved him as much in PvP as I did PvE. Elementalists are the only class that does not switch between weapon sets during combat because they switch between four different elements worth of spells instead. Elementalists still get new sets of spells for each weapon or weapon/off-hand pairing, and each of those different weapon choices also has a whole new set of spells for each of the four elements.
Warrior: is one of the two classes that I had no experience with at all during the beta. I saved it until the end intentionally because warriors are such a staple in any type of MMO that it doesn’t take much to imagine what the play would be like. I don’t even recall facing one in PvP, so I really can’t say anything at all about this class.
Guardian: represents the typical Paladin class concept as a heavily armored holy warrior. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed playing the guardian, particularly as a healing-focused character who also kicked some major butt in PvE content with the very same spec. My Norn Guardian was one of my favorite experiences of the BWE3 event, second only to my Elementalist (and not by much). Guardians have a nice mix of single and multi-target damage spells, great buffs and healing for your whole group, and some fantastic survivability.
Engineer: of the classes that I did get to play, I played my Charr Engineer the least as it was the last character we rolled on the first night and my wife wanted to go to bed and pick them up the next day where we instead got caught up in playing other characters. I did get to play with and against several Engineers in PvP though, and it looked like they were going to be an incredibly fun class to play with various gadgets and spells that worked off of random rolls. If this were WoW, then Engineers would be Hunters that traded their pets for Shaman totems, and who loved the Engineering profession.
Ranger: is about what you would expect in an MMO, a class that deals well with both ranged and melee attacks and has an animal companion. I didn’t get to play my Ranger as much as I had wanted to, but I did get to have a little fun with one, and I know my wife really loved hers. I saw tons of Rangers in both PvE and PvP, and either my eyes were playing tricks on me or Rangers are able to have their pets revive them which adds a whole new level of wicked coolness to PvP if your opponents don’t take the time to finish you off. There is a large list of pets that you can tame in this game, and I think people who are fond of this type of character will have a lot of fun with them in GW2 as well. The only problem I had with them was that I couldn’t figure out how to rename my pet, so I’m not 100% sure that it’s even possible in this game. I sure hope it is, but I couldn’t find it.
Necromancer: is a lot better than some of the other options for Necros in the MMO world. My Sylvari Necromancer was my highest level character over the weekend, and I really enjoyed him. Necromancy has always been one of my favorite schools of magic to play with when it’s offered in a game that I’m playing so I was eager to check them out. I like having an undead army to command, and I was disappointed in the relatively few options Necros have for minions in GW2. However, they did at least have minions so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and the minions had interesting abilities like being able to sacrifice them for healing effects or for explosive AoE damage.
Necros have a special feature where they turn into a shadowy being with a spell called Death Shroud. Activating it gives you four new spells (eight if you count the change to underwater spells) and you get a new health bar that’s also the duration bar for Death Shroud. Taking damage simply reduces the duration of Death Shroud, so it’s sort of like having an extra life bar when you need it. I’m not a huge fan of Death Shroud, but it is a cool concept and it saved my butt more than once in PvP. As far as I could tell, you only get access to those four spells for ever in your Death Shroud form, so it will get boring over time, but at least it still has its uses.
Thief: is the other class that I had absolutely no experience with. I really wanted to roll one of these and give them a shot in PvP, I just didn’t have time. From what I read, Thieves are a lot like WoW’s Subtlety Rogues combined with Diablo II’s Assassin class, so they’re able to do a lot of powerful moves using stealth but also have traps that they can use for damaging or controlling opponents, or for additional utility.
They do have the ability to Steal in this game, but instead of actually stealing an item you instead get a one-use special ability from “stealing” something from the target and then using it against them. I wish I could tell you more about it, but I guess that will have to wait until after launch when I’ve had a chance to try it out for myself. I saw a video of a Thief stealing a large club from one giant and then using it to bash another giant, but that’s about all I can tell you right now.
Mesmer: is an illusionist which I found incredibly intriguing when I first read about it. I only got my Mesmer to level 2, but I ran him through several PvP matches to test out the max level abilities and get a better feel for the class. Overall I wasn’t thrilled with how the class actually played, but I know that a fair amount of that is due to the fact that I didn’t have time to learn the class through normal play before I jumped right into PvP.
Mesmers have a lot of really great utility to them, but I found them very awkward. From the reviews I’ve seen on twitter it looks like this is one of those classes that you either love or you hate, and right now I’m undecided. I’m looking forward to taking another shot at the Mesmer after launch, so I’ll keep you posted. Mesmers can use their illusions as temporary pets or sacrificial cannon fodder, they can enter stealth to confuse their opponents, they have good damage and (I think) healing abilities.
One of the minor things that turned me off of Guild Wars when I first looked at it way back when, was the graphics. I think the livestream that I was watching had someone viewing one of the cinematics and the art turned me off. It wasn’t until last week that I actually took the time to look more closely, and that’s when I found out the graphics for this game are actually really good. They might not be amazing, top of the line graphics, but they do a good job of mixing realistic with cartoonish fantasy, and the end result is something that I find appealing.
I have mentioned a couple of times now that I’m not a fan of their cinematic aspect of their graphics, but with everything else I think they did a great job of making a world that is visually appealing, realistic enough to really encourage immersion, and there is some absolutely gorgeous scenery. I’m very action oriented in my playing, I don’t like staying in one place and not really doing anything, but this game really has a lot of fantastic things to look at, and I didn’t mind spending a little time in some of the places that we visited.
I like how much this game encourages exploration, and that they did their part in making that exploration worth while in both rewards and eye candy.
User Interface (UI)
The GW2 user interface is pretty simple. It’s not super customizable as far as being able to move things around the screen, but a lot of the screen elements did have the option for you to enlarge or shrink them which is something at least. With so few spells that you have access to at a given time, it’s not a big deal that there be action bars all over the place or anything, but it would still be nice if we could move them to fit personal taste.
There are some things that I wish were a part of the interface. For example, you have to buy new version of your gathering tools because you wear out their durability over time, but there’s no indication that you’re getting low or that you’ve run out until you try to gather something and suddenly find that it’s gone. You can pull up your hero screen and see the number, but that’s annoying and unnecessary if you ask me.
The one thing that bugs me about the UI is that I get so little information about my target. I want to see how much health they have left, what class they are, and whatever other information you can squeeze in there. Instead, all I see is a bar, a name, and a portrait. And I hate the location of it too, because I can’t keep as a close an eye on it with my peripheral vision.
Otherwise, I think the UI does a decent job of showing you what you need to see. Messing with your keybinds takes away the range notification on your spells, but that’s a known issue and one that will likely be resolve before launch.
The “Holy Trinity”, or Lack Thereof (Roles)
This was an interesting concept, and one that I’ve understood the existence of but wished for a fix for quite a while. Guild Wars 2 has done a good job of getting rid of the traditional holy trinity of Tank, Heals, DPS. However, they still have an effective trinity of their own which is Heals, DPS, Control.
That being said, most players won’t actually fall into any of those three roles fully. You can set up your spec and your spells so that you’re character is very dedicated to healing, but there is no healing spell that doesn’t have a cooldown that I’m aware of, or if there is it doesn’t have enough healing that you could literally sit there spamming heals all day long. Similarly, not class is so packed full of control spells that you could do nothing but that.
Can you be a healer? Yes. Can you just be a healer? No. Not unless you want to sit there doing nothing while you wait on your cooldowns. Not all of those cooldowns are long, some are just 10-15 seconds and others 30-45 seconds, but there’s enough cooldown going on that you can’t just spam heals so you’ll need to fill in your gaps with damage spells or focus on Boons (buffs) or…whatever word it is they’re using for offensive debuffs in this game.
Even the DPS specs though have healing abilities and buffs that they can use. Everyone in GW2 is able to heal, but not everyone will be using the spec and/or the weapons required to do more than one healing spell every 30 seconds or so. This game is packed full of spells that offer variety, and there’s not a single class or spec that literally cannot fill more than one role.
Some people feel that by creating their own version of the trinity that GW2 has failed to actually eliminate it, but until you’ve actually experienced the difference for yourself I urge you to reserve that judgement until you’ve seen it for yourself. One of the videos that I watched while we were looking to see whether or not GW2 would be a good fit for us mentioned the new trinity and it had me concerned that it would basically be the same thing all over again, but even playing characters where I specifically set up my spec to be a healer I did way more than just healing and I definitely noticed a difference.
Dynamic Events and Heart Quests
Dynamic Events are a lot like the rifts and invasion events that I loved about Rift. They seem to be triggered primarily off of the number of players active in an area, but some also have triggers for the players. The game does tend to get a bit more boring during off peak hours (like 5:30 am *cough*) because those that are triggered by population just do not trigger, but the others are still there for you to trigger by interaction.
I really loved how some areas had DE’s that fed off of one another, where finishing one changed something in the world that forced another one to trigger. My favorite DE’s that I found during BWE3 were in the Norn starting area. I loved how they flowed from one place to another and how many of them would trigger another one after it finished. It was really a ton of fun to go through there and look at everything that their starting area had to offer.
Heart Quests are similar to DE’s in how they work, but they are more static and some of them can be repeated. Finishing a Heart Quest also turns the quest giver into a vendor who sells special items for a type of currency that’s specific to heart quests. I want to say this currency is called Karma, but don’t quote me on that since my memory sucks. I found that in general the items that the vendors sold were typically on par with other items I already had, and the biggest advantage that I saw from using karma vendors was that you could often find items for slots that you didn’t otherwise have access to gear for. For example, you can get some early…accessories, I think they were called. They’re sort of like your trinkets from WoW except that they just have stats on them instead of on use abilities or chances to proc something. I found one karma vendor who sold a cooking recipe, so I assume you will likely find other recipes later in the game as well, and most likely for more than just the cooking craft.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed the DE’s more than the HQ’s, but I think they both serve their purpose and do a decent job of keeping things moving and directing you around the map. They also do a good job of keeping you invested in the stories in many cases. Some DE’s are fairly minor so you don’t really notice anything difference after having done them, but others have a real impact on things going on in your area of the map.
Below is a screenshot of one of the mails that I received after completing a fun heart quest that made me really look forward to getting into some of the other quests. It’s nothing huge, but it was fun and made me smile so I was looking forward to doing other things as well.
I really enjoyed the PvE content overall. There were some quests in particular that I didn’t care for because they didn’t make sense to me or they had you doing things where the resources for completing the quests were too few in number so you had to wait for respawns, but for the most part I enjoyed the stories that I saw and I liked how many of the quests had some amount of impact on the world around you.
I thought that the combat system was very interesting as far as spells were concerned. I like the idea of certain spells being tied to certain weapons and being able to swap weapons to switch between your spells. I don’t know that I love the system, but it was definitely something new and interesting. Let me explain –
In Guild Wars 2 you have access to 10 spells at any given time: 5 tied to your weapon, and 5 tied to your class. The first five spells are tied to your weapon(s), and you can have two sets of weapons equipped at the same time to allow you to swap back and forth on most classes. Of the other five spells the first one is your heal, the next three are based on how you spend your skill points, and the final one is a heroic spell that’s tied to your class and I have no idea at which level you officially gain access to that one. (Each of the classes that I played also had access to a varying number of other spells tied to the class, but each class is different so I’m not going to cover them here.)
You have no control over which spells are tied to your weapons, they just are what they are and that’s that. You do have control over the other five spells though the first is always a healing spell and the last is always a heroic spell of some kind. The remaining three in the middle can be chosen from a decent list of about a dozen spells once you’ve spent the skill points to unlock them.
The Elementalist class is unique because they can’t swap weapons in combat. Instead, they have four schools of magic (Fire, Water, Air, Earth) and each of those four schools has a different set of five spells for each of the weapons that an Elementalist can use. This gives them a great deal of versatility in their spell selection as they effectively have twice as many spells to choose from as everyone else.
I did have a lot of fun with the PvE content, and I did enjoy the spells based on weapons system. However, I do still wish that I had full control over which spells I could cast. I love the versatility it brings and the idea of switching to the weapon that’s best suited for the task at hand, but years and years of playing MMO’s where I had access to my entire spellbook must have spoiled me. I still had a blast with the game, so I’ll deal with the limited spell selection and do just fine, I just wish I had the option to pick and choose more.
I also like that there are so many things in the world that give you experience. Story quests, heart quests, dynamic events, vistas that give you experience on top of a great visual scene, crafting, gathering, killing things, and so on. There might not be enough experience available for every different type of player to do exactly what they enjoy the most to get all the way up to level 80, but there’s enough going on that you can certainly focus on what you enjoy most and then supplement that with other activities that you still like to do.
There wasn’t anything that particularly comes to mind as far as things that I disliked about the PvE content. I have a few things that I’ll talk about down below, but those are mostly bits and pieces of the game overall that didn’t thrill me. If I had to pick out one thing that I didn’t care for on the PvE side of things, it’s that the Effective Level system is forced on you rather than being something you can toggle back and forth. Not that it’s a bad thing necessarily, I just wish I had control over it for those times that I want to be able to to be at full strength in a low level zone.
I found the PvP in GW2 to be a lot of fun. With everyone being at an equal level of gear and with all skills unlocked, I think they really hit a home run with their PvP concept. By raising everyone’s effective level to 80 they’ve accomplished what SWTOR was aiming for with their PvP, and by leaving out PvP gear that further increased the power of already higher skilled or more experienced players they’ve managed to avoid the pit that SWTOR fell into after Patch 1.2. By keeping a completely unnecessary PvP stat out of the game, they have established PvP to be a straight forward match up of skill versus skill (versus skill in WvWvW).
There are two types of PvP in Guild Wars 2, known as sPvP and WvWvW. The sPvP matches are much like battlegrounds and warzones, where it’s the red team going up against the blue team. All of the maps are the same right now in concept as they are all control point style matches.
Strategic PvP (sPvP): One big difference in these matches versus other games though is that the number of people there has no influence on how quickly you get control of the flag. Whether you have one person there or five, the flag changes hands at the exact same speed. It’s not a contest of who has the most people here, it’s a contest of who is here and who is not. If even one person on each team is on the flag then ownership does not move, you have to be the only team in control of it to make establish ownership.
While the objectives are very simple, the gameplay is more than just capturing and controlling nodes. One of the larger differences is that some maps include siege weapons that can be used to attack nodes or even to destroy buildings that block the terrain. By removing buildings on your team’s side of the map you can open up new paths for your team to go through, and you can attack enemy players directly with the siege weapons as well. You can also attack your opponent’s siege to remove them, though they can be rebuilt.
Other maps include mini objectives like NPC bosses that spawn at intervals and award bonus points to the team that kills them. So if you find yourself in a close game you can rally some troops to go take out the bosses while everyone else defends and see if you can gain an advantage that way.
World vs. World vs World: I didn’t get to spend much time at all doing this, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here. I did have fun doing it, and I liked that there were gathering nodes and things so that people who don’t like PvP a whole lot can still go there and have things to do besides just fight people. I didn’t fully understand the concept of everything that was going on, but basically it’s one huge map that has three different teams in it. The fight goes on for two solid weeks before it resets, and it’s a constant battle to see who can control the most caravan routes (I think) for the longest period of time. The more bases you control, the larger your supply chain, thus the more supplies you rack up over time.
Since this is an epic battle both in size and time frame, you should be prepared to see a lot of people here at once. I know when I was there I had my graphics turned down to the medium range and I was lagging like crazy with the number of people present and how much AoE was being thrown out there. So be prepared for lag if you’re not using a high end machine. Another option would be to travel there with a smaller sized group like some of your guild members and focus more on being a quick strike team rather than hanging out with a massive zerg group.
There are vendors here where you can buy things to make siege weapons if you have the right professions (I think that’s how it works), and those can make assaulting the keeps themselves significantly easier. We had over 50 people in the group that I was attacking in and we were all attacking the walls to a keep with horrible results until the siege was set up effectively. I was focused on AoE healing and throwing Meteor Showers, and I was having a blast every eight seconds or so when I could actually see things happening because of the lag. Whether or not I can overcome the lag will be the deciding factor in how much WvW I end up playing.
One nifty thing I want to mention about PvP is that the rewards you get for doing it and acquiring different levels of Glory can come in really handy for your PvE as well. For example, the first two times I gained a level of Glory I opened the chest that was my reward and found 8-slot bags in both of them. At the time, the only bags I had been able to find from vendors were 4-slots, and though I could craft the 8slot with my tailoring profession, I didn’t have nearly enough mats to make more than just a couple.
I did not want to spend too much time on crafting professions in the beta because I knew it was only open for one weekend and I knew that I would be having to deal with kitchen renovations for several hours each day too, so I wanted to spend my time where it really mattered. However, I really love crafting in MMO’s, so I made sure to at least try it out a little bit.
My favorite thing about crafting is that after making just a few of a specific item, every copy of that item in your queue gets progressively faster. So the first one might take like 1.5 seconds, the second 1.25, the third 1 second, and then all the rest after that are faster and faster. So making things in large quantity will go significantly faster than any other MMO that I’ve played.
I also like that you can change your crafting skills easily and that doing so does not strip you of your progress in the skill, so if you drop max leveled Tailoring to pick up Weaponsmithing and decide you want to be a tailor again then you can just switch back and still have your maxed tailoring. I didn’t bother testing that feature out, but my tweeps inform me that it is true so I’ll take their word for it. I have been known to drop maxed out professions several times in both WoW and SWTOR, and I really look forward to not having to bother with excessive amounts of farming to get around all of the professions in the future. It also means that I can, if I so choose, have a single character dedicated entirely to crafting who can just bounce around between all of the different professions as needed. (/lightbulb)
The one thing that I didn’t really care for about the crafting system was that many of the items that you can craft require you to craft other items and then turn those into the finished product. I would rather they just combine the total material cost and let me make the final products in one go. It does add some flavor to crafting, so maybe it will grow on me as I get more time to mess with the system, but just trying it out for a few minutes I found it to be more annoying than it was anything else. Annoying might be too strong of a word there, actually. Let’s just say that I didn’t care for that feature a whole lot in my limited testing. I did see that there’s a special discovery screen or something where you can randomly pick various items and throw them all in there to get a random item made, so maybe all of those component items will prove to be really cool when mixed together like that?
Another one of my favorite things about crafting is that making things gives you experience. I don’t know which genius thought of that, but whoever they are they deserve a raise and two week paid vacation. Make it happen, ArenaNet! I’ve always had an obsession with crafting, and I’ve always had an obsession with leveling. Mash those two together and you’ve got yourself a paying customer in me.
Things I Missed Out On
Because of the many hours I spent rebuilding my kitchen from the ground up after that damn mouse chewed through the water line, there were still several things that I didn’t get to try at all or that I tried only a little bit because of the time constraints.
Auction House: I don’t even remember the official term for it in GW2, that’s how little time I spent with it. Since this was beta and only a weekend opening of the beta, I did not want to bother with things that would not let me experience the gameplay itself. As such, I never bothered to even attempt listing items for sale.
World vs. World vs. World PvP: Known as “WvWvW” or “WvW” for short, this is one of the major draws to the game from a PvP perspective. I did get to participate in one of these for about 20 minutes, but I had no flipping clue what I was doing besides following other people and killing things that I saw. I knew the common sense stuff, like clearly we’re attacking this gate because we don’t control the point, but supply caravans and such I had no idea what to do with those. There was also some insane lag going on when I was in a huge group of people with AoE’s flying about so I didn’t especially enjoy the time I spent there compared to other activities.
Dungeons: I do not know if I just never saw them because I was too low level, or if I was just in the wrong place, or…
Not Thrilled About
There wasn’t a whole lot that really turned me off in this game, but there were a couple of things that sort of bugged me.
Content-based Effective Level: This is one of my favorite features, but it’s also one of the things that bugs me the most. When I want to play with my friends, I love the fact that I can go to where they are and my level will be dropped to be equal to the content so that we’re not just facerolling everything. Rather than going in and wiping out everything for them, I get to actually play with them and enjoy it. However, effective level seems to be forced on you no matter what you’re doing. If I want to go to a low level area to farm some materials for crafting, or if a friend is struggling with a strong enemy or something, then I do want to be able to go there and faceroll the content. I really wish that the effective level was something that you could toggle on/off in different situations.
Grouping: The biggest thing that bugged me about GW2 was that being grouped up with my wife while playing gave us very little benefit. When we were on the same heart quest or dynamic event, almost nothing I did impacted her progression through the quest. The one thing that grouping did for us is if we both attacked a mob that gave us credit, then we both got credit for it, but if I tried to help her by killing more of the mobs or gathering extra items then she got nothing for it and instead I was actually robbing her or resources. When you’re playing a class that has pets in an area where mobs agro on you, sometimes you can’t help stealing those resources from them.
You also have no indication of the progression of your group members. If my wife wasn’t literally sitting beside me, then I would have had no idea how close she was to completing the quests without having to ask her. Also, since the only indication of your progress is a bar you can’t really say how many more of something you need to do. “How many more undead do you need to kill for the quest?” “How should I know? A quarter of my bar worth, maybe?”
The only thing you can really complete together is bits and pieces of your character stories, but even then some of the quests you have to do twice because you made different choices in your backstory so the quest information isn’t exactly the same for both of you. And since there is no indication of whether this will be a quest you can do together or that you need to do separately it was pretty annoying to have both of us go in to complete something only to realize after it was completed that we would have to go back in again for the other to do it.
Controls: I use a lot of different movement options in MMO’s, I don’t like to limit myself to just one when I have the option of being more versatile than that. I found that some of the controls in GW2, particularly turning with the keyboard felt very sluggish. I’m usually a mouse-turner, but when I’ve got something to eat or drink in my right hand then I need to be able to move about easily with my left and the keyboard turning really sucked in my experience with it. For a game whose combat system is built around mobility, I think they need to speed up the keyboard turning or add a slider bar similar to the one they have for camera turning speed to allow users to adjust it as needed.
Vague Quests: Some of the quests have incredibly vague information in them about what you’re supposed to do. We found a quest on our Sylvari that wanted us to hunt down special monsters in the area. It didn’t tell us who they were, or even what they were, or where we could find them and it didn’t show us an area to search in either. The only thing we knew was that there was “still one more special, unique monster” out there that we needed to kill for it. We searched for quite a while in the area where we got the quest, but neither of us could find any indication of who or what needed to die.
Gathering Tools: GW2 uses gathering tools, which is all fine and good since most other games do too. However, GW2 has not only multiple versions of the gathering tools, it also has a durability number assigned to each one that isn’t repairable and simply wears out over time. The higher level your tool is, the higher your success rate is for finding rare materials which is cool, but having to constantly replace them sucks. In terms of durability, I gathered just about every node that I came close to and I had to replace my first mining pick and lumber axe around level 12. If I were playing during the week, on the same character, then each tool would last me for probably 3-4 weekdays, or a single day on the weekend depending on how much time I had to play.
Personally, I think the durability concept is total garbage. Having different versions of the tools that give a bonuses is a great idea, so that part I really enjoyed. Having versions that increase chance for rare mats, increase total mats, increase effective gathering level, and things along those lines are all great examples of how they could have made gathering really cool, but the durability concept just kills it all for me. I could understand durability on the special ones, even, but not on the base model. I think players should always be able to gather once they have purchased tools to do so.
Personal Mail: You can’t send mail to yourself. You can send mail to someone else instantly, but you can’t send your own characters jack. You can run around until you find yourself a bank to deposit things into and then jump on another character and run them to a bank to withdraw, but that’s it. This bugs me way more than it reasonably should. I hate this feature more than I care to tell you in words. Getting items from one character to another should be just about as simple as you can possibly get, and this makes no sense to me at all. Luckily, I can mail things to my wife and then have her instantly mail it back to me on another character, but that’s still ridiculous.
Five Character Slots: Let me start this one off by saying that I’m aware that they plan to sell us additional character slots. That being said, there are only five character slots in a game with five races, which would be fine on its own, and eight classes. Five slots, eight classes. Can I get a “GRRRRRRR!!!” up in here!??! Thankfully, we will be able to purchase additional slots. I don’t know how much they’re going to cost and what kind of limitations they’re going to put on there as far as how many you can buy and so forth, but not having enough base slots available to even try out the entire character roster is incredibly frustrating to me. I know, I know. We can fix it with money, but still.
Single Server Selection: This one kind of ties into the one above, and it’s possible that I just couldn’t figure things out correctly – From what I can tell, you can only have characters on a single server. You can add friends from other servers and play along side them, but your own characters can only be on one server. So those five character slots are your five character slots and that’s all there is to it. In SWTOR we can get around the character limit by rolling additional alts on other servers, but with GW2 it looks like there is no way to work around the character limit, you simply have to purchase the additional slots with cash. I don’t like it, but I can live with it.
These are some of the things that I really liked about GW2. Some of them I knew about before hand, so they weren’t necessarily “surprises”, but this is the list of things that I really enjoyed.
Effective Level: I love that there’s this sidekick system in the game that allows you to have your character’s effective level reduced so that you can play with your friends no matter what your level differences are. That was always one of our stumbling blocks of playing with friends in WoW and SWTOR, because we don’t share the same time zones or amount of available play time with the majority of our friends, so it’s very easy for you to get out of sync in levels and then being in the same group just nerfs the experience of the lower levels and you just sabotage yourselves even more. I think more games need to adopt this concept, though I did have some concerns as I mentioned in the section above.
Persistent Grouping: A feature I totally wasn’t expecting, that kind of blew my mind to be quite honest was that grouping up with someone keeps you grouped until you break the group. We played our Sylvari characters, then rolled some others, then went back to the Sylvari and found that we were still grouped together. We went back to the other pair and they were still grouped up too. It was a great touch for people like us who typically play together. When I logged in for some solo PvP time, we were still grouped even though she wasn’t even logged in, and when she did log in later she just joined right up with me and we carried on. That was a very nice touch in my opinion, and definitely something that other games could adopt. It would be nice to have a setting that you could toggle on and off since I know some people would rather not have it forced on them, but I really enjoyed having this.
Mail From Anywhere: I love that you can instantly send mail from anywhere in the game. This is a fantastic addition to any game, and one that I would certainly like to see more games adopt. Now if they would just make the freaking mail system allow you to send mail to yourself…
Auction From Anywhere: Just like being able to mail things no matter where you’re at in the game, you can do the same with the auction house. This making inventory management very easy and you don’t have to worry about things like a bank alt or storing auction items in a certain bag until you get back to town or whatever.
No Rested Bonus: I like that GW2 doesn’t bother with any incentive for you to log out in a specific place in the game (at least not that I’ve found). While I enjoy bonus experience as much as the next person, I enjoy freedom to play when and where I want to even more, and not being tempted to return to a city every time I want to log out is a big plus. That also means there’s no stupid logout timers that have to count down when you log out somewhere other than a city.
Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed my BWE3 weekend with Guild Wars 2. I might not have loved every aspect of it, but I did have fun from start to finish and I really wished that I would have been able to log in again on Monday evening after work.
My assumptions proved to be true, that Guild Wars 2 would offer enough of what we love about SWTOR and enough other features that we enjoyed from other games that we would have fun playing it. It doesn’t have the same level of character development (story-wise) as SWTOR does, so it won’t be able to fully replace SWTOR, but it’s certainly fun enough that it will be added to our collection of games and played frequently.
In its current state, SWTOR has a finite amount of enjoyment that we’ll be able to get out of it, and once that has been reached I think GW2 could potentially become the primary game. Right now the few things that SWTOR does have over GW2 it definitely has over GW2, so it’s still the primary game of choice. Guild Wars will be knocking out Diablo III and Starcraft 2 as my secondary games, though.
I’m looking forward to the official launch of Guild Wars in August, and I’m pretty sure my wife and I will go ahead and pre-order our digital deluxe editions soon™.